Reimagining Smart City Procurement With Digital Technology

Hal Good

Part 4 of the series “Winning In The Experience Economy

Have you ever thought about how many of your life’s major critical decisions would have been greatly facilitated and perhaps modified if the digital technology we now take for granted had been available “back then”?

The pace at which technology has changed has accelerated so rapidly that it is likely all of us, regardless of age, have examples from our personal lives and jobs. I can think of numerous examples from my procurement career.

The challenge of reimagining procurement with digital technology is especially exciting to me, given I’ve experienced the disadvantages of being encumbered by siloed traditional procurement for many years. During my 30-plus year career in private and public procurement, I’ve had opportunities to participate in numerous, complex major projects where digital technology would have been helpful. Two of the most significant, in terms of impact, are drawn from my tenure as director of procurement and contracting for the city of Palm Springs, California.

The city of Palm Springs is a world-class resort destination. The success of the city in that highly competitive marketplace is dependent on visitors having a great and memorable experience that leads to their desire to return and recommend the city to others. Residents of Palm Springs benefit from the enhanced quality of life amenities driven by the hospitality-based economy. A hotel tax and the city’s share of sales taxes generated by purchases in city restaurants and retail stores strongly contribute to the overall tax revenue and maintaining the high-quality infrastructure.

The ability to successfully connect the benefits of investments in new infrastructure to the return in investment that benefits the overall economy has sometimes been called into question. I was directly involved in one example: building and then subsequently expanding the Palm Springs Convention Center.

The convention center is considered the lifeblood of some of the city’s larger hotels and local restaurants, but there are differing opinions about the ability to attribute revenue flowing back to the city. The same controversy surrounded a 18-hole championship-level golf course that was built to help Palm Springs hotels successfully compete with hotels in other locations. Portions of both the convention center and the golf course project were facilitated through a public-private partnership. The fact that these two projects could attract private-sector investment at the same time public-sector support was mixed was probably due to a number of factors. One of those, in my opinion, was the inability to sell residents on the overall benefits due to supporting information being housed in siloed agencies, each with its own data and mission.

Despite these impediments, both projects were successfully completed and the facilities are now vital components of the Palm Springs infrastructure. However, the journey toward success would have been much smoother had the resources available in today’s digital technologies been available. The projects were, in my opinion, early prototypes for what has evolved into “smart cities.”

In new digital technology scenarios, organizational silos are replaced by ecosystems that aggregate the inputs of multidisciplinary teams and cutting-edge information and communications technologies. Silos are broken down, not only among disparate government agencies but also between the public sector and the private sector.

The promise of smart cities is that all stakeholders will benefit through collaboration and the alignment of goals with the help of cutting-edge technology. The multidisciplinary teams working together to achieve efficiencies, reduce operational costs, and enhance the community’s quality of life typically represent public sector organizations and private enterprises and may also be supported by academic institutions and nonprofits.

Although smart cities are most often spearheaded by public-sector organizations, they also solicit and rely upon advice from private-sector leaders. Typical organizations participating in smart city projects include construction, engineering, healthcare, utilities, waste and recycling, automotive, telecommunications, travel and transport, higher education, and operations sectors.

Utilizing digital technologies, smart cities are increasing in numbers and broadening their reach. Procurement, either the public sector or private sector, touches each and every one of the participatory organizations. It has a natural role and vast relevant experience in fostering collaboration and alignment of purpose. As an essential component of “reimagining procurement,” it should be a leading part of every smart city endeavor.

Explore the challenges, opportunities, and technologies involved in achieving critical business outcomes in the experience economy. Read more about the neighborhoods of the digital core, network and spend management, digital supply chain, customer experience, and people engagement.

About Hal Good

• Hal Good is a multidisciplinary business leader with over 30 years of experience in public and private procurement and public-private partnerships. His portfolio of successful major projects includes a major university teaching hospital, an international airport, a convention center, and numerous city and county government agencies. Hal is a member of the CPO Rising Procurement Hall of IBM Futurist and was a recipient of NIGP's second highest national award, the "Distinguished Service Award.” Follow Hal on Twitter @Hal_Good